March 3, 2018
By W. Gerald Cochran
Hickory – The Western Piedmont Symphony’s fourth Masterworks Concert, presented at the P.E. Monroe Auditorium on the campus of Lenoir-Rhyne University, was truly a “Homecoming.” The guest soloist was Dmitri Pogorelov, who served as the orchestra’s concertmaster from 2010-2014, when the Kontras Quartet, of which he is first violinist, was Quartet-in-Residence for the Western Piedmont Symphony.
And what a grand homecoming it was. Mr. Pogorelov played Robert Schumann’s (1810-1856) Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 129. This is a work that was suppressed without a performance right after it was written, and did not emerge until 80 years later. The whole story is too long and complex to relate here. It was Schumann’s final work and is considered one of his best. It has beautiful themes and lyric melodies, with multiple colors and inflections. Mr. Pogorelov is a formidable violinist; his performance was sublime, with a silken beauty in his tone.
Bookending the star attraction were Meditation by Julius Penson Williams (born 1954), to begin the concert, and Symphony No. 2 in B minor by Alexander Borodin (1833-1887) as the grand finale.
Julius Williams is Professor of Composition and Conducting at the Berklee School of Music in Boston. Meditation is part of the cantata, Easter Celebration. It is concerned with reflections, especially about Easter, and urges the listener to think. It consists of chords and harmonies, sometime clashing and sometime not, that gradually shift to a grand finale. While contemporary in nature, this is a very listenable and enjoyable work.
Concluding the concert was what is perhaps one of Borodin’s finest compositions, his Symphony No. 2 in B minor. It is classically Russian in tone, starting with a dark and foreboding theme in the first movement. This moves to a fast scherzo, which tests the brass sections, especially the horns, in keeping the quick rhythm with rapid repeating notes. The third movement is a lyrical strain, and the fourth combines energetic dance themes and forceful dramatic touches, with lots of percussion. It is a grand work, performed splendidly by the orchestra.
The next, and last, Masterworks Concert of the season will also be Maestro John Gordon Ross’s final concert with the orchestra. He will be conducting Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, “Choral,” on Saturday, April 14, 2018. This is a concert not to be missed.